A year ago I posted “Where Are the Workers?” about the difficulty that companies had in finding workers. It is very difficult to find people who can read and follow directions, show up on time, and pass the drug test. In all but the lowest level manual positions, the candidate must also be able to communicate with other workers, management, and customers.
But it is also difficult to find a job. While we are officially in a recovery, it is a very slow recovery without the usual fairly sharp rise in job availability after a major recession.
I recently saw a Washington Post article stating that for the first time in decades more companies are dissolving than are being created. The Brookings Institution study implies “a continuation of slow growth for the indefinite future,” and probably is part of the explanation why job growth rates have failed to rise above two percent in this recovery. The Brookings Institution is known as a liberal-oriented think tank.
Why is the American economy growing less entrepreneurial? That answer will probably become more clear in ten years or so, but I suspect a few influences.
- Our current education crisis. Our public schools seem unable to provide our students with the set of skills they need to be successful in business. Common Core will not help. Our colleges and universities, though still rated some of the best in the world, are mostly successful at saddling students, whether they graduate or not, with a mountain of debt and little chance of finding a job.
- The biggest single area of uncertainty is health care. Congress passed The Affordable Care Act, but President Obama has made at least forty changes to the law by fiat. Many of these changes impact when certain parts of the Act go into effect and what insurers must cover. These changes impact the cost companies will have to bear. All a CFO can really count on is that health care costs to cover employees will rise, with no idea of how much or how fast.
- Uncertainty driven largely by government actions and inactions in other areas. Congress continually fails to pass a complete budget or even budgets by sector, impacting government contracts in all areas. Congress also continues to fail to address a number of tax issues, allowing, for example, tax relief programs to expire for individuals and companies. This prevents companies from planning expenses and opportunities even for the current year, let along the future.
Whether you are a seasoned worker with decades of experience or just of out school, what does it mean as you look for that first or next job? Two things: you need more than the technical job skills, and you have to be flexible in how you will work.
Baseline recently reported that 77% of employers believe that soft skills are just as important as hard skills for career success. These soft skills include a strong work ethic, reliability, a positive attitude, self-motivation, team-orientation, ability to manage multiple priorities, working well under pressure, good communication skills, flexibility, and confidence. As you work on your résumé, your interview preparation, and your references, focus just as much time on examples of how you excelled in most of these soft skills as you do on your certifications, training and experience in the desired job.
In the old days, one went to work with an expectation of staying there for a long time as you moved up in responsibility. Those days are gone. The loyalty that used to go both ways between a company and employee does not exist, although the company still expects you to be loyal to it. According the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, the average worker stays in a job for 4.4 years. That means that you should expect to have a lot of different jobs, around eleven, in your career. Companies are moving to outsource everything. Even CEOs are essentially contract employees. Companies started renting their executives decades ago, then starting working from the bottom to let someone else do their payroll, HR, shipping, manufacturing, software development, data processing, and building maintenance. Companies are now contracting out even for their core design, development, sales, and marketing. Who is left? I know independent contractors who have worked longer at a client company than most of the employees of the company.
But as companies try to keep benefit costs, especially health insurance, down ideally to zero, expect that you are likely to have multiple jobs at the same time. Instead of a one-to-one relationship between you and the company for which you work, you are likely to be simultaneously working for more than one company. This already happens for consultants, but expect it to become the norm. Companies do not need a fixed number of full time experts for a particular task, but when they need one or more they want people who understand their company, its strategy and its products. Someone who is available 20 hours a week or 20 hours a month who is plugged into the company is less expensive than a full-time employee, and more effective s they don’t have the learning curve.
One result is that I expect to see the virtual if not actual decoupling of health insurance from employment within the next five years, with government employees being the last to go. I personally view this as an appropriate place to be.
The other result is that you should always be looking for a job and keeping your résumé up to date. You should view every job as temporary and keep your job search activity going. Most importantly, keep your personal network active.
The last word:
There is a Congressional election coming up in November, giving voters a chance to deal appropriately with each Congressman and one third of the Senators. As you prepare to vote, study your Representative and, if applicable, your Senator. Decide whether they are helping or hindering your ability to find a good job or run a profitable business. If you don’t vote, you can’t complain in 2015.
Keep your sense of humor.